Ronaldo relishing Inter battle

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The Independent Football

Cristiano Ronaldo is predicting a "titanic" battle between Manchester United and Inter Milan in the San Siro tonight.

The world player of the year is aiming to be part of the first side to retain the Champions League trophy since it was formed in 1992.

But there could have been few more arduous tests than the runaway Serie A leaders, who United meet at the same last-16 stage Jose Mourinho knocked them out at in 2004 with eventual winners FC Porto.

And, while Ronaldo is confident the holders will get through, he recognises Inter will not be disposed of without a mighty battle.

"It is going to be a titanic fight," he said.

"Inter are top of Serie A which tells you immediately they are a good team who are going to give us a tough game.

"But we are playing well, which should give us confidence. We just have to be ready."

With fellow countryman Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson at odds over when the tie will actually be decided, Ronaldo prefers to concentrate on what would be a good result for the visitors.

Like his manager, the star winger acknowledges United's formidable home record will give them a chance to progress providing their injury-hit squad avoids a similar calamity to the one they suffered on their last visit to the San Siro two years ago when AC Milan scored three times without reply to cause Ferguson more semi-final heartache.

"A good result is a win but if we draw it is not bad because Inter know it will be difficult to beat us in Manchester," added Ronaldo.

Ferguson will take a late check on the fitness of John O'Shea and Jonny Evans before finalising his line-up.

O'Shea is more likely to shrug off the pain of a sore heel than Evans is to battle through an ankle injury, but if either are fit it would at least give Rio Ferdinand a partner in central defence.

Fabio Da Silva - whose twin brother Rafael is absent with an injured ankle - and Darren Fletcher stand by to fill the right-back slot.

"My options? I panic!" said Ferguson, only half-jokingly when asked what he would do if both his Irishmen were ruled out.

"I suppose I could play Dimitar Berbatov as a sweeper."

At a time when plausible rivals on the domestic front are disappearing, the United chief is relishing a meeting of minds with Mourinho, who has only lost one of their previous 12 head-to-head duels.

There has never been anything worse that a healthy rivalry between the two men, with opinion growing that Mourinho will one day succeed Ferguson at Old Trafford.

And, as he enjoys a fabulous climax to his own career, Ferguson credits Mourinho's arrival in England for giving his team the edge they had lost.

"When Jose came there was a great upsurge at Chelsea," he said.

"I remember he uttered those words 'I am the Special One' and it seemed to galvanise the whole club. They won the first two titles under his management and their starts just caught us on the hop.

"By the time we got to October in that first season we were trying to play catch-up. It gave them the upper hand over everyone really."